Yet Another 3D Controller


Update :: I spoke about this at TEDxYouth@Hyderabad !! Yaaayyy !! Read more about it here

A lot of you will secretly agree with me, if I say, “education”, as it is today, is more a form of punishment for the students, than a channel for acquiring knowledge. Maybe the purpose of education is also to ignite that little spark of curiosity that guides a young mind through his hunt for knowledge. Instead, what the current education system does is, it hunts the knowledge for you, arranges it in the form of small digestible pills, and hands it over to you along with a prescription. The job of the teacher is to make sure that the patient takes the right amount of pills at the right time. Simple. It doesn’t matter if some patients think that the pill tastes weird. It’s necessary for them, remember? While trying to make sure the students are sincere about acquiring knowledge, maybe we are pushing them away from the whole point of acquiring knowledge.

Imagine a classroom, where the teacher walks in, asks all the students to open their laptops. He then finds his smartphone in his pocket, and then starts teaching. The class is about the anatomy of a human heart. The teacher holds his smartphone while pretending like he is holding a real heart, and voila!! a huge 3D model of the heart rotates, revolves, moves closer and farther on a projected screen as the teacher does the same with his smartphone. The exact same also happens on the laptop screens of all the students too. If any of the students are more curious, they could also use their own cell phone to control the 3D model on their laptop screens. Sounds almost like what I was promised as a kid. Heck, I hope I will manage to send my kid to a classroom like that.

The YA3C project, developed at the CERN Webfest 2015 does exactly that. It lets you use your trusted smartphone to intuitively control a 3D model on your laptop screen, while using nothing more than an updated browser on your smartphone. It finally let’s ideas and their representations break free out of books and jump into your own hands, for YOU to play with.

This is a completely web based prototype developed to address some of the problems in adoption of interactive and intuitive media in education. We know for a fact that most Humans are lazy, and teachers are humans. Humans love simple things, and teachers are again humans. A funny but true summary would be: lazy teachers love simple things, and if we want even the lazy teachers to help us fix education, then we will have to come up with something very simple, and very familiar. In the current times, what can be more simple and familiar than the browser on your trusted smartphone. Also, exploiting a regular smartphone ensures, there is no overhead cost in setting up the whole system, the school rules just have to make sure all the students bring their smartphones to the class ! ;)

So let’s go through the common excuses that YA3C might be an answer to :

  • Finance Departments : We do not have enough budget to buy so much extra hardware for all the students and teachers.

    • YA3C : No, you don’t have to. Everyone has a smartphone, and that’s all you need ! :)
  • Teachers : It is very hard to set up something like this and I hate installing apps.

    • YA3C : No, you just need your smartphone and an updated browser. We know you have both.
  • Teachers : I won’t have time to learn a new technology to teach my class. All this sounds too complex.

    • YA3C : No, you just have to pretend it’s the 3D model you are holding, and not your smartphone. Then rotate, revolve your smartphone as much as you please, the model on screen will mimic your smartphone. We know you know how to do that.

There are of course other problems for which YA3C is not an immediate answer. For example say, how does the teacher who was never trained in designing 3D models find 3D models to teach? Well, interestingly, over time because of the gaming and entertainment industry, we do have a good collection of 3D models scattered all over the web, surely not enough to exhaustively cover all major aspects of education, but more than enough for the first few steps in that direction. An adoption of something like this will definitely induce numerous communities around it which can help make available an open collection of interactive and intuitive media available for the domain of education. There are a dozen other problems like this, and I am sure, we as a community can find the best of the solutions for all of them. And that is the dream, a community working together to help bring the very much delayed paradigm shift in education. This will finally leave teachers with less excuses and make learning fun again for students.

In my opinion, it is not fair for a whole generation of students to not get to experience education in a completely new light, only because the teachers are too hesitant to adopt something new or because the school budget cannot manage buying extra hardware. YA3C is my solution to the problem, while I attempt to refute some of the common excuses. It is not the perfect solution, but it is my baby step towards liberating education from dusty blackboards and lazy teachers. What’s yours?